Parents must mind how they label their kids

Last Thursday's article ("Teachers' bias can limit students' future") struck a chord with me.

As an executive coach, I work with senior leaders to sharpen their leadership skills.

Many leaders overlook their role in nurturing and developing their subordinates. It is an intrinsic responsibility. How they do this has a direct impact on whether or not those they are supervising realise their potential.

I agree that teachers themselves must receive coaching to raise their self-awareness and realise the impact of their behaviour, so they can, in turn, coach their charges to achieve their potential, aim high and be the best that they can be.

I am confident that some teachers and principals are already doing this - but the Ministry of Education can continue to focus on this important need.

More parents must also realise that they are powerful influencers, and potentially stronger ones, relative to teachers.

This has to do with the issue of "child branding", which parents do to their children from a young age, whether consciously or otherwise.

They use words like "he is just so shy" or "she is stupid". If parents use such labels in front of their children often enough, they should not be surprised if their children grow up to be shy or stupid adults - victims of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Consider the power of such branding if it happens in a positive way, for example "you are so clever" or "you are always taking care of your younger brother".

I also agree that teachers have their students' welfare at heart.

What is important to highlight is that the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic routes are not last resorts.

Everyone is gifted and wired to achieve in different areas. Some of us are just better with our hands, or musically inclined, for example, instead of being academically strong - and that is all right.

Advising students to consider the ITE route may be the best advice a teacher can dish out.

This important conversation can first be had with the student's parents, so the views are aligned, and then dispensing advice jointly to the student.

Paul Heng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'Parents must mind how they label their kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe